Responding to Lazy Applicants

31 Replies

I was just curious about how other people handle the lazy prospective tenant.  For instance, an email through craigslist simply stating "I am interested in this home".  No questions or anything - just a simple statement.  Another example would be an email with obvious gramatical errors that the prospective tenant didn't take the time to correct.  One more example that comes to mind is the missed call with no message.

I've generally been ignoring  these types of inquiries.  I don't feel like I should put more effort or time into a response than than they put in to their inquiry.  I also assume that someone that puts such little effort into an inquiry would tend to put the same amount of effort into keeping the house clean and well maintained.  Should I change my approach?  Am I missing out on good leads?

Your approach is correct. Lack of a detailed reply shows a lack of interest. No need to be chasing people down and begging them to rent your place. The qualified and the right tenants are the ones who will show interest and have questions, unless your posting or add is so detailed that it covers everything. 

Account Closed I continue to ignore them.  Or if i need entertainment I might respond.  We have enough noise running a business and should filter out as much as possible.

Frank Romine, Real Estate Agent in CA (#01957844)

I use exactly your approach with exacgtly your reasonning.  And quite honestly, I may be missing out on a great tennant but I feel that I'm pre-screening so much potentially bad tennants that it's worth it. 

And with so little effort on your/my part, I wouldn't change my way in a million years. 

Any tenant that emails isn't serious. The serious ones call. The emailers are usually just phishing, they may be realtors or other landlords.

When someone calls and says "I'd like more information about the unit", I ask "What would you like to know?". If they're asking questions about the obvious - price, number of bedrooms, location - I simply tell them they need to look at the ad again.

Those that are serious about moving are organized and ask more specific questions. I put all the relevant information in my ads, like the security deposit, lease terms, available move-in date, application fee is there is one, etc. 

Unfortunately, most people don't read more than a few lines in the ad, if that.

Yup, just continue to ignore. Why waste our time and effort?

I even put prescreening questions in my ads and I know those who email me answering the questions actually read the ad.

Sometimes I even ignore questions like "how much is the rent"? That information is blatantly plastered multiple times in the ad.

305-537-6252

Not sure they are lazy tenants so much as just filling out the standard form on the rental site without adding any additional remarks.  People on their lunch break or whatever may just be quickly submitting requests to the ones that interest them, not necessarily being lazy.  I actually prefer email to phone calls as it's easier to keep records and show you're treating all potential tenants the same.  Whenever I get a brief email like that, I send my standard reply, same as every other potential applicant.   It thanks them for their interest, restates the rent and pertinent info like minimum qualification requirements, then says, to schedule a showing this Saturday, please email your availability, and the time, like, I currently still have 2:00 or 3:30 available, please let me know which works best for you and I'll confirm by email if still open.  A lot of the more detailed inquiries I get turn out to be people who want concessions or try to convince me up front why they'd be great tenants even with their bad credit, so the more simple emails are fine with me.    

I agree with pretty much all that has been said here.

1. People who call and leave no message get no call back

2. E-mails are nice. Easier to keep track of who is interested and when they contacted you. They usually ask when they can see the unit.

3. I try to put prescreening information in my listings so we don't waste each others time. The big one is my income requirement. This weeds out a lot of people right away.

I agree with everything above except I wouldn't discount all emails.  There are a lot of people that just prefer to communicate that way.

Craigslist response: I am interested in this home.

My response: Great. Thanks.

Originally posted by Aly NA:

Any tenant that emails isn't serious. The serious ones call. The emailers are usually just phishing, they may be realtors or other landlords.

When someone calls and says "I'd like more information about the unit", I ask "What would you like to know?". If they're asking questions about the obvious - price, number of bedrooms, location - I simply tell them they need to look at the ad again.

Those that are serious about moving are organized and ask more specific questions. I put all the relevant information in my ads, like the security deposit, lease terms, available move-in date, application fee is there is one, etc. 

Unfortunately, most people don't read more than a few lines in the ad, if that.

I find this to be true of all serious inquiries.  Serious inquiries follow the instructions to call, or if they respond by email, the emails are complete. They introduce themselves, they have full names, they have phone numbers.  This has been true of tenants, property buyers and buyers of anything I've ever sold on craigslist.  It's even true of sellers who first contact me via email. (from my ads and from my mail marketing).  If they are serious and want to communicate about their property they provide a name and phone in their first email.  I have no trouble being contacted first by email, but I pretty much delete all the one liners these days.  Same thing with texting.  I ask the people who text me with one line inquiries to please call or write.  Only the serious ones will follow up.

Personally I wouldn't discount an email because we seem to live in a world where text communication is more preferable than voice communication, especially with the under 35 crowd. If I received a vague "I'm interested in the apartment" response, I would just copy and paste the original posting with the comment "Thanks for your interest. Here's the information about the apartment."

Frankly, I would be more concerned about responding to an ad on Craigslist as there are a lot of hinky people there. Here's a funny story that happened when my job took me to San Francisco several years ago. I was looking for an apartment on Craigslist, and there were a lot of obviously too good to be true listings. Just for grins I responded to one, and received a reply that said "I've recently had to move to London and have to sublet my apartment. If you send me the first month's rent, I'll send you the keys." LOL. I wonder how many people fell for that.

Originally posted by Kristine Marie Poe:
Originally posted by @Aly L:

Any tenant that emails isn't serious. The serious ones call. The emailers are usually just phishing, they may be realtors or other landlords.

When someone calls and says "I'd like more information about the unit", I ask "What would you like to know?". If they're asking questions about the obvious - price, number of bedrooms, location - I simply tell them they need to look at the ad again.

Those that are serious about moving are organized and ask more specific questions. I put all the relevant information in my ads, like the security deposit, lease terms, available move-in date, application fee is there is one, etc. 

Unfortunately, most people don't read more than a few lines in the ad, if that.

I have no trouble being contacted first by email, but I pretty much delete all the one liners these days.  Same thing with texting.  I ask the people who text me with one line inquiries to please call or write.  Only the serious ones will follow up.

Exactly about the one liners. And I get those texts too, I just tell them to call.

I like email and almost everyone who emails gets the same treatment unless they have a specific question which I will answer in addition to the other information.  I usually ask when is it best to talk  so I can answer any other questions.  All the students send emails for rentals and most aren't professional or very detailed but they are alright. Sometimes they forget a key point like call me an no phone number  but not everyone has done alot of apartment seeking. you are experienced often times they are not, maybe this is the first or second place they rented.   The only emails I don't respond to are obvious can you help me out. I live in xyz foreign country.

I don't text. A text is not an email and I can't pretend it is. half the time I can't understand it. For missed called I figure they listened to the rundown I leave on my voicemail and they aren't interested. In fact the only missed calls without messages I will call back are my family or friends. I don't know your number and you hang up without a message you were not looking for me.

Originally posted by @Mark Del Grosso :

Craigslist response: I am interested in this home.

My response: Great. Thanks.

Ha! I was considering that response, but opted to send nothing instead

Timely thread. I've got two in trying to rent now and definitely agree that the serious ones provide additional detail via email or will call. I don't chase missed calls with no messages either.

Personally I don't automatically dismiss someone who emails or text or asked about information already in my ads.

I used to get annoyed when I spent time putting everything in my ads, all relevant data, pictures even scaled floor plans and then I get a call asking "Is that a 2 bedroom?" or "does it have a washer/dryer?" However, I did end up with a few quality tenants from those and the reason they asked those questions are because they have been scanning ads all day or all weekend, browsing through 100s of properties, along the way, writing down on a list of paper the properties they feel are potential fits but the problem is they don't write down all the details most of them just write down contact numbers, addresses and how much rent.  Then they make calls going down that list, by that point they don't remember if the third property on the list has a garage or not.  So I'll give them a break,

As for emailers and texters, again I prefer a phone call to get the inquiry and prequal out of the way in one shot, but I found more and more the younger generations are more comfortable with text and email...so I just roll with it.  If they ask me questions that's on the ad I just shoot them the ad URL that's all.

I set up my Craigslist ads so that they can't email me, they have to call. I got tired of responding to emails all day long, then I'd never hear back. So now, if they are really interested, they will call me.

Like @Michelle L , I don't allow email from craigslist ads either. 

I prefer text and email. Makes it easier to track what has been said to whom.

In my adds I ask for them to respond with specific things.

1. Property they are interested in

2. Name

3. Monthly income

4. Pet info

5. Desired move in date

Serious ones will answer most if not all of them.

James Wise, Real Estate Agent in OH (#2015001161)
216-661-6633

I prefer text and emails. Often, I'm driving, cooking, the kids are screaming, or I'm in church.  Then I can respond at a convenient time.  I'm also less likely to break one of my policies when I'm not speaking directly to someone.

Originally posted by @Leslie A. :

I prefer text and emails. Often, I'm driving, cooking, the kids are screaming, or I'm in church.  Then I can respond at a convenient time.  I'm also less likely to break one of my policies when I'm not speaking directly to someone.

 You shouldn't drive and cook at the same time!

Just kidding...

In most markets, CL just isn't the best place to find renters anyway....just isn't but depends on what you have and your general market.  If you do this enough, you can spot the scammer CL response pretty easily.  We market a ton on CL, just like many of you but we only get about 3 to 5% of our renters there.  Rest are from personal referral, HR departments, our website and about 20 other sites that we video market through.  When it comes to getting tenants, the best sources aren't for free.

The Nigerian scammers have gotten a bit more sophisticated and first want your email and will then work towards your address to mail a check to..that you are then supposed to deposit, take your cut to cover rent & deposit and wire the rest to a different account...sometimes to cover the cost of shipping their car to your rental - supposedly. The check is bad and you'll end up eating this if you negotiate it through your account.

 Here's an actual example of a text I got recently as send with caps and spacing:  "I am OK with the price of the room,I just need to know its still available for rent and it present situation as I will be needing the room asap."

I almost always respond with a quick "which one" even with the typos as you see above. I advertise a ton of rooms and houses so I get 10 to 20 of these a day from CL.  For most of you, you have one or two places you are trying to rent.  The reality is that MOST CL people won't read your ad completely and 75% of using their phones to pull up your ad.  They are responding simply to the pictures....usually.  If they are for real, a response will come back referencing the area or your property...like "bayshore gardens house" or north atlanta.  The scammer will come back with something generic like, I am moving to your city and just finished in the peace core  or "my masters in Canada."  They will usually mention paying with a cashiers check and that their phone doesn't work well for international call so texting is best.  Anyone offering to send you a check or funds without an application or having ever seen you or the place...is a scam.

The younger crowd...under 30...likes to text.  The more serious minded want to see the place right away and set an appointment.  NEVER give out the address but market in house as being in a general area.  There are two types of crooks on CL....local or cyber.  The local crook wants the address and pictures so he/she can market your property as his own and rent it to unsuspecting people.  Terrible times bring out terrible people.  In Atlanta, there are tons of cases where an owner showed a property to someone who then turned around and rented the place to other people.  We had a case here last year where the owners told the prospect they showed that they would be out of town for several weeks.  BINGO - that prospect ran ads on CL for the property, took deposits from 4 or 5 people, broke in and changed the locks and actually rented it to another family.  When the real owners showed up, they then had to evict someone living in their house!  Can't imagine it but it really does happen.

So while we are on this kick.  Don't advertise or give the address to anyone UNTIL after you have sent them an application and MET them in a public place.  It's all about cutting the odds of a problem.  A serious candidate will fill out the app and meet you at a local McDonalds.  I will often meet several at around the same time and stack the meetings in 15 minute intervals.  I usually have the candidates send me their info so I can run a basic background and know who I might be dealing with.  We will then arrange to show the place to those who pass the meeting.  I say this all of the time but take a look at the interior of their cars....that's what your rental is likely to look like too!

We have moved to a much more impersonal world and you have to shift your business practices as well to be a successful landlord.  Don't assume that any of your renters are just like you.....that's the classic mistake.  Perceive them as someone you can't trust until after you have built a relationship with them.  I tell every one of my renters that at the first meeting.  Get the prospect personally involved as soon as you can with something simply like an application.  Get their email and send it off. Those that respond, fill it out and get it back to you are your market.  Just say that in your email or text back to them - please send me your email so I can get you out our application and go from there.

If you use youtube video as we do, I can text them the video link for the property they are inquiring about and head off a ton of questions.  I also usually automatically weed out anyone I can't understand on the phone....probably lose some great tenants that way but it is what it is.  

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